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4WD is no guarantee

A few weeks ago, The Union Editor John Seelmeyer got a letter from Bigtowner Lori Davis. She and her husband had a new Dodge Ram Monster, and they and son Kyle decided to take it up into the high country around Washington and see what it could do.

They hit trouble nine miles out of town when the truck went off the road and they couldn’t dig it out. It was getting onto dark-thirty, and there was nothing else to do but hike those nine snowy miles back down to Washington.



Linda Chambers was in the Washington Hotel Cafe when they stumbled in; she filled ’em full of coffee and cocoa and got hold of Gypsy John Bryant and his best friend, Philip Copening. Gypsy brought the Davises back to his house where his wife, Sandy, made them welcome, and then the guys went out for the danged truck. In just that bit of time hiking to safety, someone had trashed the truck. Gypsy, Philip and Hubby retrieved the truck, and everything turned out OK. That time.




Lori’s letter was downright scary. I tacked some copies up on our bulletin boards, and local readers winced and shook their heads. I don’t think they ever realized the danger they were in. This nice family had gone for an innocent Sunday drive and could so easily have ended up in a bad way, as in dead. We’ve recovered bodies from the woods and river under far more favorable conditions than a snowy January day. Is that too grim for you?

Other people have gotten stranded here and there in the mountains besides the Davises, so what went wrong? I checked around town, curious, and got a thorough education.

Col. Doug: “Oh, it’s lack of forethought and planning. They didn’t expect any trouble, so they had no equipment. Personally speaking, I would’ve brought along a cell phone; everybody seems to have one nowadays. They were high enough up that it might’ve alerted somebody. It was certainly worth a try anyway.”

Spanky: “You don’t go hikin’ alone, do ya? You know better than that, don’t ya? You want to go four-wheelin’, you always take at least two vehicles, never alone, never!”

Mervelous Merv: “Never, ever take it for granted that your brand-new vehicle just off the showroom floor will not break down on you. I don’t care how expensive your 4WD is, it can still mess you up in the middle of nowhere because of some lousy $1.50 part goin’ kerflooey, and you can freeze to death courtesy of Mother Nature, who never breaks down.”

Col. Doug: “Don’t be careless in the mountains, whether you’re on foot or in a vehicle. Careless can kill you.”

Merv: “Let people know where you’re going and when you’re comin’ back. Common sense should tell you not to go out in bad weather or if there’s a storm on the horizon – unfortunately, not everybody has common sense.”

Big Tom: “You got the same rules for hikin’ around in the mountains and four-wheelin’, ain’t a bit of difference. You buy a 4WD for showin’ off on regular roads, that’s one thing. But the minute you go country with it, you’re in a whole new world.”

Col. Doug: “Jeepers always go out in packs; they know what’s safe. They can rebuild a truck right in the field or tow it on out if it’s seriously damaged.”

Merv: “Very true. If one driver gets stuck there’s 15 more to help get him out and another five to go for additional help if necessary.”

Well, I felt as dumb as a box of rocks, ’cause I never even thought of any of this stuff, and there’s more next week.

Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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